The ABC continues to embrace the concept of ‘binge viewing’ by its audience. After the successful run of Glitch on ABC iview, the national broadcaster is having another go but with something that is a million miles away from the critically acclaimed drama.
This time, the ABC is launching a new comedy series on iView; a full month ahead of its television premiere. It’s a six part series called Sammy J and Randy in Ricketts Lane.
Born of the Australian comedy circuit almost ten years ago, it stars award-winning comedian Sammy J and Randy; a purple glove puppet. Yes. A glove puppet. But this is no ‘sock at the end of a hand’ type of thing. This is a little like “Muppets on Acid”.
For all intents and purposes, Randy is ‘real’. There are no references to his “muppetiness” or his purple hue. He interacts with Sammy J, as would any other human character.
Sammy J, on the other hand, is flesh and blood. He’s a lawyer, but has yet to win a case in six years. He opened his house to Randy after his divorce. Shenanigans ensue.
“Without ruining the magic, Randy is actually both a person and a puppet." says Sammy J, "We met at a comedy festival. I was doing my solo stuff and he was doing his.
It was probably five years ago that we decided to focus on trying to create a TV show. So, we wrote “Ricketts Lane” for the stage. It was originally going to be called “Ricketts Lane: A Blatant Sitcom Pitch”.
It went down well at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, but still no one wanted to make it. We kept writing live shows, building up an audience and finally the ABC said ‘yeah, we’ll give you a shot’. So we got to work”.
Watching the first two episodes, it’s easy to see its live comedy show roots. Ricketts Lane is over the top and very silly. The first episode features a game of Taser Hide and Seek. Its characters are likely to break into song without warning.
It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does.
“Randy and I spent a long time writing the story lines to get the narrative just right. We’d get to the stage where we’d say ‘OK, we’ve got the story. What’s the funniest way of telling it?
It helps that we have the same sense of humour but with different approaches to telling that joke. That’s why you end up with an episode where we thought ‘oh, a car ride is the right thing for this joke. Or a song’.
Once you’ve started a song, for example, you’ve got to keep it short because comedy songs on TV have a habit of sometimes overstaying their welcome”.
So, you end up with not a sketch show, but hopefully it has that feeling of never knowing what’s going to happen next. As soon as the viewer thinks they know what’s next, you’ve lost them”.
It’s clear Sammy and Randy have a lot of affection for their characters. It’s neither mean-spirited nor condescending. There’s also a certain nostalgia for how things used to be. For example, there are no mobile phones or ‘modern’ devices.
It’s filmed in an orange-sepia with a lot of 1980s ‘brown and beige’ that lends itself to a certain silly other worldliness that allows Randy to ‘work’.
The ABC is taking a risk in using the iView platform to launch “Sammy J and Randy in Ricketts Lane”. The move will either generate ‘word of mouth’ buzz ahead of its TV premiere or be overlooked by its intended audience.
As for Sammy J, he’s taking a philosophical approach to it all.
“We’ll find out soon enough whether the nation embraces us or turns its back on our filthy, immature brand of comedy. I’m sure the ABC, as much as they say the ratings aren’t an issue, they’ll probably have one eye on them anyway”.
Article by Nikole Gunn - The entire series of Sammy J and Randy In Ricketts Lane is available for ‘binge watching’ from today on ABC iview. The series will be broadcast on ABCTV in October.